Bella Wallersteiner works as Senior Parliamentary Assistant for a Conservative MP.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s latest Assessment Report is the first for some time, and it is a pity that so much of it has been reported in an alarmist way. With the BBC stating that the IPCC report is “code red for humanity”’ and Patrick Vallance, the Deputy Chief Scientific Advisor, claiming that the new report “makes plain that our goal should be to drastically reduce global temperature rises”.
The report has also buoyed the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement, which is now planning mass occupations in London later this month, and plotting to hold its most disruptive demonstrations yet.
I believe that Climate Change is an issue which needs to be addressed, but perhaps Climate Change scientists and politicians should be aiming their fire at China, which is the biggest net polluter in the world as it is highly dependent on coal burning power plants. Since 2000, the world has doubled its coal burning capacity, after dramatic growth in China and India. Climate change is having a deleterious effect, especially in Sub-Saharan regions, as record global greenhouse gas emissions push up temperatures, cause drought, crop failure and desertification. Rising sea levels will cause huge problems for countries like Bangladesh where flooding is already endemic as most of the country is less than five metres above mean sea level.
XR is going about its campaign in completely the wrong way by disrupting the lives of ordinary people. Both XR and Black Lives Matter are protest movements that are seeking to effect change without a democratic mandate, and both have been described as far-left and Marxist by their critics. They have a subterranean mission which is not fully understood by all their supporters – although there is no doubt that at least some of them see themselves as left-wing revolutionaries.
Protesting and demonstrating are legitimate forms of exercising the right to articulate opinions and ideas without retaliation or censorship. However, blocking public highways, hijacking tube carriages and blockading Oxford Circus with a pink boat of boats caused serious and unacceptable interruption to people in London, and was not the harmless fun which Dame Emma Thompson proclaimed when she addressed climate change protestors in April 2019.
XR’s protests in 2020 disrupted the public access to news when protestors used vehicles to block roads outside printing works. This was nothing less than an attack on the free press. XR protestors are committed to dismantling capitalism and any state structures that they don’t like, and believe that disruption is the only way to force change. They are attacking democracy while using climate change to justify their actions. They are pressing for the kinds of limits on modern life that would bring cities to a standstill and push the most vulnerable into penury.
By aggressively pursuing a Net Zero agenda, without being honest with the public about the costs and sacrifices involved, the Government is only serving to further embolden these green activists. During the pandemic the Government has got into the habit of drip-feeding huge policy proposals, for example the announced ban on the sale of diesel and electric cars from 2030, without producing a quantified economic impact assessment at the same time.
Eye-wateringly expensive, Net Zero is a fantasy of the present Government. The bill has already been estimated at £1 trillion pounds – £30,000 for every household in the country – a figure that was exorbitant even before the Covid crisis. Like the extremists leading XR, the Government has failed to look carefully at how this will be paid for.
Asking people to spend their own money is hardly going to be a vote-winner in Red Wall seats or traditional Tory shires. Take electric cars, does the Government think that the car manufacturers will just absorb the cost of re-equipping and re-tooling factories? Will the oil companies absorb the cost of refitting every single petrol station? How will voters react to their vehicles being condemned to the scrap heap.
The Government’s green policies have hardly been debated by economists or scientists. Democratic scrutiny is being dismembered at the same time that repudiation of personal freedom has become fashionable.
I am a libertarian, and freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are vital rights that I wholeheartedly support. Groups like XR should be allowed to exist. But all democratic parties must surely combine to defeat their extremist ideas, while the media should desist from indulging their demands.
These neo-puritan activists are extremists and iconoclasts. Their tactics are entirely destructive, not constructive. They believe that the only way to tackle climate change is through Marxism and the end of capitalism. They are giddy by their own virtue-signalling and influence, but are often misguided in how they choose their targets. They dismay large numbers of people while achieving nothing of any substance for the planet they claim to be saving.
Moving to more sustainable ways of living will be difficult but the Government needs to approach the task with more common sense and transparency about the costs involved to get the public onside. Splurging billions on green projects, aping the alarmist rhetoric of eco-warriors and demanding austerity for the electorate will not win the argument or persuade the public that this is how we tackle the important issue of Climate Change.